We’ve entered the second month of the government shutdown, the longest in US history. Today Second Harvest Food Bank took to Facebook Live to answer many of the questions received about food assistance, how to find help and ways our community can help #ShutdownHunger.
Our first group of questions addresses SNAP, or food stamps. A local mom wrote in to ask “I am receiving SNAP benefits. What does the government shutdown mean for me?”
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will be issued for January and February. However, SNAP recipients should have seen February benefits loaded on their cards this past weekend, on January 20th, an earlier timeline than normal. This means individuals may have two months’ worth of benefits on their account in January. No additional benefits will be added in February. USDA is encouraging all participating SNAP recipients to plan their purchases carefully to help make sure benefits will help meet food needs through February.
Our next question comes from a TSA worker at Orlando International Airport who needs food assistance. “Can I get SNAP benefits? Can I go to a food pantry?”
If you fit all eligibility criteria for SNAP you may receive SNAP benefits. In addition, local feeding partners are opening their doors to accept furloughed federal workers or and other individuals impacted by the shutdown who need assistance. Find a list at www.feedhopenow.org/shutdownrelief organized by county. If you don’t see a location near you on the county lists, please use the Food Finder.
How should federal workers or anyone affected by the shutdown reach out for food assistance?
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is here to help You can find shutdown-related resources at www.feedhopenow.org/shutdownrelief or call us directly at 407-295-1066.
Will food banks like Second Harvest be able to fill the void if funding for SNAP runs out before the shutdown ends?
That would be a very tall order for food banks. For every meal that Second Harvest provides, SNAP provides 12.
In addition to questions about SNAP, Second Harvest has heard from parents concerned about the school lunch program and WIC. One parent asked, “Will my child still get their school meals?”
Yes, your child will receive meals. The National School Breakfast and Lunch program and afterschool meal programs will be funded through March.
Another question states, “I am a new parent who receives WIC benefits. Will there be an interruption in my benefits?”
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and mothers and their infants and children up to age five. WIC benefits are funded through the month of February. WIC clinics will remain open in the near term, though a prolonged shutdown could close clinics and limit benefits.
How is Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida responding during the partial government shutdown?
Second Harvest is in disaster relief mode. The food bank is communicating regularly with its feeding partners across all six counties to ensure they are equipped to handle increased demand due to the shutdown. Since January 7, Second Harvest has experienced a 60% spike in requests for food assistance in our community.
Second Harvest distributed 38,000 pounds of food, toiletries and baby supplies at an Orlando International Airport employee distribution site on Jan. 22. The event benefited employees of the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Aviation Administration.
What are some ways that you can help during the shutdown?
Spread the word. When you share Second Harvest’s shutdown relief page with your social networks you can let your friends, family and loved ones know of the resources available.
Volunteer. If you have a few hours to spare, volunteers are needed to prepare meals, sort food donations and pack family boxes that will be distributed over the next several weeks to families in need.
Start a Food or Fund Drive. Whether you, your company or organization want to get involved, this can be a very meaningful way to help. You can start a non-perishable food drive, host a virtual food drive or launch a Facebook fundraiser to assist with shutdown relief efforts.
Donate. For every $10 donation, Second Harvest can put 40 meals into the community.
Are you affected by the government shutdown? Email us about it. If you’re willing to be interviewed, please provide your name and phone number.